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Fast interchange ahead

Open house on plans for 3500 South, highway

WEST VALLEY CITY — Those who live here know it best. During peak traffic hours, just passing through an intersection along the Bangerter Highway can take several minutes.

Without funding for a new west-side freeway, officials at the Utah Department of Transportation say there is no way to "significantly" reduce wait time in traffic along Bangerter.

But they do have a plan to cut time spent waiting to cross an intersection by up to 60 percent. And time saved at an intersection means time saved on an overall commute, according to UDOT spokesman Nile Easton.

By early June, UDOT hopes to begin construction on a new type of intersection at 3500 South and Bangerter. The design is known as a "continuous flow intersection." It supposedly cuts wait time at the intersection up to 60 percent by better coordinating when cars can move during a green light.

"We're confident this will make the transportation system along Bangerter work better," Easton said. "Bangerter has had a bad rap as a road that has functionality problems. People get frustrated on it. By eliminating the time spent waiting at an intersection, traffic will flow more smoothly."

The new intersection design was patented in Mexico, according to Jesse B. Anderson with Carter & Burgess engineering, UDOT's contractor on the project. It works by a combination of creative signaling and a "non-intuitive" design, said Anderson.

For instance, if a motorist heading south on Bangerter wanted to turn left onto 3500 South, he would cross the oncoming lane of traffic and move into a separate lane near the northeast corner of the intersection.

The motorist would be directed whether to move into that lane by a red or green light signal. The lane would be adjacent to a separate lane for cars turning right onto Bangerter from 3500 South.

These movements would be mirrored for cars headed northbound on Bangerter that want to turn left onto 3500 South. The goal is to allow left-hand turns to occur at the same time north and southbound traffic on Bangerter is moving.

These coordinated movements, combined with different timing of stop and go signals, are what reduce wait time at intersections, according to Lisa Wilson, UDOT project manager for the intersection.

A video simulation of vehicle movements will be available at a public open house Thursday. The open house is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the West Valley City Hall.

Bert Compton with Carter & Burgess said other than reduced traffic time, benefits of the new intersection include low cost and minimal impact to property. The intersection will cost about $8 million to construct, compared to $20 million or $30 million for an interchange.

One business, Shag-Rug-La, on the northeast corner of Bangerter and 3500 South, will need to be relocated to make room for the redesign. Property will need to be acquired from Les Schwab Tire, on the southwest corner of the intersection.

But, the intersection has "a much smaller footprint than an interchange," Compton said.

Kreg Whitehead, president and co-owner of Shag-Rug-La, declined to comment on the need or the anticipated success of the new interchange. Whitehead said he was told about three weeks ago his business would need to be relocated.

No arrangements have been made to compensate the company as plans for the intersection still require approval. Whitehead seemed resigned to the fact that his company may have to move.

"We've been here for 30 years and don't want to leave, but we're told there's not much we can do," he said. "If we're forced to move, we'll make the best of it and try to build a bigger and nicer establishment. We're not going to roll over and die by any means.

Shag-Rug-La sells floor and window coverings. It is a family-owned business.

A representative from Les Schwab's corporate office in Oregon did not return a phone call. Dealership managers declined to comment.

West Valley Mayor Dennis Nordfelt said he was supportive of a project that would relieve congestion along Bangerter and surrounding streets. "We're grateful for the working partnership we have with UDOT," he said. "They are very responsive and work with us in real harmony to solve the traffic problems."

If the new intersection design proves successful at 3500 South and Bangerter, UDOT plans to redesign intersections at 4700 South and 5400 South along Bangerter.

During the open house Thursday, the public is invited to comment on plans for the intersection. UDOT officials said the agency will respond to comments.